We recently wrote about the difference between thought leadership and product PR. But we want to provide additional insight into why thought leadership can help your organization.
Thought leadership is generally focused on educating the market on a key issue that's relevant to customers. It's not necessarily about pushing product or directly promoting the organization. Instead, it's about enhancing awareness and perception of the company.
While we know that in the current environment, budgets are such that C-Suite executives are looking for bottom-line results, we also know that thought leadership can breakthrough the sales and marketing noise. For example, one time, a CEO asked us to pitch them. They had a very focused market, with about 100 customers. They had a strong sales team that was hitting a wall. At one point, the CEO asked us, "Why should I hire you, and not just bring on board one more sales rep?" Our answer, respectively given, was this: "You said you know who your customers are and in some cases, they don't return your calls or engage with your sales reps. One more sales rep would be just another person trying to sell customers who aren't interested. But with thought leadership, you might be to get those customers interested by showing how you understand their issues."
So, here are some ways thought leadership can help.
- Thought leadership campaigns need new content -- and that can lead to media coverage. That content can be used to develop blog articles, bylined articles, presentation content and interviews. We've often pitched thought leadership content and generated interviews and requests for bylined articles.
- Thought leadership builds credibility, relevancy and trust. This is because thought leadership is focused on educating customers and the market, not on directly selling product. With the right content, your organization is relevant and earns trust among your target audience, which can include customers, employees, partners, etc.
- Thought leadership programs can influence the industry. For one company, our thought leadership content not only generated ongoing requests for bylined articles, with editors contacting us but our content was cited by other third parties and was included in at least one peer-reviewed article! Based on the thought leadership we created from content briefings with the client, the client was invited to address a Congressional committee dealing with the client's main issue.
- Thought leadership can raise brand awareness. Thought leadership can be connected to product marketing, and in several cases, our work to help educate the market on key issues resulted in significant awareness. In one case, we got a small tech client mentioned in coverage about a larger competitor because reporters responded to the key message we helped the client communicate. In a second case, we helped a security startup be included in coverage that previously only mentioned Microsoft and Cisco.
- Thought leadership can help raise funds or get acquired. When a semiconductor client came to us saying that the industry standard was wrong, and that their approach provided better results, we made that the focus of our communications, and our work not only got the media's attention, it helped get the client acquired after only 18 months by picking a battle in the media over industry standards that took on Microsoft. In other cases, clients have used thought leadership results to help them make the case that convinced VCs and others invest in the company. For nonprofits, we've also seen our work help raise money from benefactors.